Knowing Your Place and Your Story…

Most of my life, people have tried to put me in a place.  This place is usually wherever they think I should be based on who they think I am.  In my quest to know myself and to know my voice as a storyteller, I have had to make it a point to stay true to who I know myself to be.  Round pegs don’t fit into square holes; square blocks don’t fit into round holes, nor, do 41-inch hips fit into a size 4 pair of pants.  Tried it.  You might get in them by some miracle but you aren’t getting out of them without a fight or a pair of good cutting shears.  Lost a favorite pair of jeans that way…oh, the memories…I had purchased them when I was stationed in Germany, they were black and had straight legs, and – I digress.  I was stuck in them for two days, thank God for undies that snap.  There is nothing like a jolt of reality to make you pay attention to what happens when things don’t fit which is why one must know one’s own place in this world.  The wrong influence can send you off on a wild goose chase or land you in a pair of pants that you have outgrown.  Growing, in itself, is not a bad thing but ill-fitted clothing can be a hot mess.  Knowing yourself as an artist will help you navigate the waters no matter what changes around you.

Some years ago, I attended a conference where the playwrights were assigned directors to direct the reading of their pieces.  One of the playwrights at the conference got a director who chopped her 20 minute scene up so bad; we weren’t able to give her any feedback on her original scene.  The whole purpose for the playwrights to attend the conference was to hear their work read.  I had to stop the same director from adding lines that did not belong into my 20 minute piece.  I explained to this director that I wanted to hear what I had written; if, after hearing it read, I wanted to change something, it would be my choice.  I knew my piece.  I knew what I had written and why and I wanted to hear it as written; I also knew my rights as a playwright (see Dramatists Guild Bill of Rights http://www.dramatistsguild.com/files/DGBillofRights.pdf) so, I spoke up – not only to the director but also to the conference runners in the “after conference” survey.  The magic that is supposed to happen when a piece has the right director is something to aim for (I’ve had it and oh, the ride is rich and full of surprises, confirmations, and just out and out joyous moments.).  Twenty minutes isn’t a lot of time; it wasn’t a showcase on directing though a reading done well does just that, it was a snippet of a play read for the playwright’s benefit.  From my 20 minutes, I was able to tell that the audience liked my story and wanted to hear more which let me know I was on the right track.  I asked the other playwright why she allowed the director to move things around in her piece (which even with the disjointing of the scene we could tell she was an excellent writer, we just didn’t know what her story was supposed to be about); she said she didn’t know she could stop the director from making changes.  I told her to join the Dramatists Guild www.dramatistsguild.com .  Information is liberating. 

As a playwright, collaboration with other theater artists will enter the process; it is a given.  Part of what makes theater so powerful is the collective gifting of the playwrights, directors, actors, set designers, costumers, lighting and sound techs, etc. who all add to the theater experience.  Just last August, I had a play read in North Carolina.  The group of actors and director who came together to breathe life into my words were so phenomenal.  A character thought to be unnecessary (by panel members) at a previous reading proved to be quite necessary in this one.  The director understood the character.  The director, also, knew how to pull this character out of the actress portraying the character.  The actress knew her craft and knew how to stretch…  Where I was unable to hear the true voice at the previous reading, I was blown away at the second one.  I had suspected that Indigo had something to say and am eternally grateful to the actress, Antonia McCain, who gave Indigo her moments.  I am, also, grateful to the director, Melinda J. Morais, and all of the other actors and actresses who contributed to that reading for list see http://ladybyrdcreations.com/byrd_sightings.  I could hear the harmony building from page to voice, hinting at the stage…

The quest for harmony is an intricate part of what I do when I create.  I try, with each play, to access the artists circle – a place, my place, where all things are equal.  There is neither male nor female in my artists circle – only songs of the soul and rhythms of the spirit – and that circle is sacred.  If I did not know what my place/purpose is, I would never be able to regulate where I should be at any given time.  My journey would be undefined.  I would not know which stories are mine to tell and which ones are for some other writer.  Knowing my place in the artists circle helps me stay focused on keeping the “waste of time factor out of the equation – out of the place where stories are born…

 

2 Comments

  • By Sunshine Jen, June 3, 2010 @ 11:28 am

    Yes! I really like your two blogs. Please write more.

  • By Larry Dean Harris, June 19, 2010 @ 8:51 pm

    Truth well spoken, Robin! And thanks for plugging for the Guild.

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